Barbie’s Existential Crisis and What it Means for Women
Sometimes I see a movie, and it just makes sense to me. The Barbie film (2023) was one of those movies. In my Barbie movie explained post, I attempt to show you the deeper meaning of this movie and how it is an allegory for most women, and how we transition as we grow up. Plus, I will attempt to explain the ending of the movie to you. So what is the meaning of the Barbie movie?
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE BARBIE MOVIE?
To Read My Barbie Movie Christian Review – Visit HERE!
First, a few fun facts!
Did you know there have been over 40 Barbie films over the last 20+ years? These Barbie computer-animated movies are all geared toward young girls. This is the first live-action movie Barbie movie. Director Greta Gerwig’s Barbie film takes us on a journey of self-discovery.
Barbie was developed by Ruth Handler in 1959. She was based on a German doll named Lilli. Ruth and her husband, Eliott, were co-founders of Mattel Toys. In fact, Barbie was named after their daughter, Barbara Handler, and represents the fact that women can be anything. They don’t have to just be moms, but they can be moms. (While I wanted to be a mom growing up, I still thought Barbie was cool).
So, for all of you who said, “I don’t understand the Barbie movie,” this post is for you.
The Barbie Movie Explained – By A Non-Feminist
First, I am not a feminist by any stretch of the imagination. I am a conservative Christian who actually went into the movie expecting it to be so totally different than what I found. I enjoyed the movie. Granted, it is stupid and silly, but it tells the story of growing up and becoming a woman in a way that I could never imagine.
Furthermore, most women I know just want a silly, stupid movie that doesn’t require anything from them.
Scene One: The Beach Tea Party
Before little girls come of age to play with Barbie, they play with other dolls. These dolls are usually baby dolls who need constant care, just like a real baby. Usually, toddler and preschool girls nurture their dolls. Even if they are not given baby dolls, they care for their stuffed animals in the same way. They have tea parties with their dolls, and then one day…
The Barbie Doll Enters the Scene
When girls become old enough to get a Barbie Doll (usually around age 3 or 4), they graduate from the baby doll to a “real doll” who can go places and do things in the real world. They usually receive this doll for a birthday or Christmas, which is a big deal for a little girl. “Her first Barbie doll” has deep meaning. This is a rite of passage. Consider the fact that baby dolls sit there, and you have to take care of them while a Barbie doll is “grown up.” Think about it – Barbie has everything a little girl who dreams of being grown-up wants.
For instance, Barbie has a house, a pool, a car, pets, a career, and friends. When a young girl gets a Barbie doll, the doll seems larger than life. At this time, many young girls discard their “baby dolls” because they are for babies, and Barbie is for a girl!
The next several years of a girl’s life are spent playing with “grown-up” toys. Since Barbie dolls come in all shapes and sizes, with disabilities, and different careers, you can be anything you want to be through that doll.
Maybe a boy comes around, but the young girl doesn’t always understand his intentions. She considers him a friend, but man friends just hang out with us when we let them. We usually don’t consider their real feelings or what they want to do. If they want to be friends with us, they are there when we want them around.
Which woman among us hasn’t looked back in that pre-teen, early teen life and said, “I think that boy liked me?” But he was just a friend to you.
In fact, we were so oblivious to the things we said and did that made him believe we wanted anything more than friendship. As young girls, we always laugh, and those boys think our laughing is flirting. They think, “She likes me.” I distinctly remember my freshman year in high school. It was right before I turned 14. A young man would talk with me right after history class. I honestly thought he was just a friend. Years later, a mutual friend told me that the young man had a crush on me our freshman year. Looking back, I can see the signs now, but I missed them all at the time.
Also, I remember having conversations with my daughter about boys. I remember talking to her about how they misinterpret what you say or don’t say. Clearly, in the movie, Barbie is oblivious to Ken’s feelings. However, later in the movie, after she understands what she meant to Ken, she apologizes. She had never meant to hurt him.
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Barbie: Lots of Pink, Shoes and Sleepovers
Barbie has lots of friends. She has a pink dream house, a pink car, a pool, and lots of nice clothes and shoes, and she just glides through life. At pre-puberty, that is the young girl’s life. Playing, parties with friends, and everything is taken care of for you. You seem to glide through life. When Barbie wakes up, she showers, puts on her clothes, and goes down to eat, and the food and milk are just magically there.
Then one day, you have a thought. It is probably around puberty, but depending on your upbringing, financial situation, and life circumstances, you may have to grow up sooner than other kids your age. The thought represents passage the first passage into growing up.
For me, this happened when right after I turned 10. I had a cousin die after being hit by a car. We played together all the time, and after her tragic death, I began to question God, the goodness of God, and life and death. In the movie, Barbie has a moment where she says, “Do you ever think about death?” This causes everyone around her to stop what they are doing suddenly. When Barbie realizes that the people around her aren’t ready for the “thoughts of death” conversation, she explains that comment away.
Barbie Can Be Anything
While Barbie is changing clothes and having sleepovers, the other Barbies are anything they want to be. In Barbie Land, Barbies run everything. There is President Barbie, Doctor Barbie, Supreme Court Justice Barbie, and more. Barbies hold all the positions, but since our young girl isn’t ready for that yet, Stereotypical Barbie is the one that gets played with the most. In comparison, the other Barbies can control the world.
Ken, Just Hanging Around
Where is Ken?
To a young girl playing with Barbies, you have all your girl dolls. You dress them up. You make them sparkle, and you have a good time. And then there is Ken. He is just in the background. What does Ken do? He just is there.
It’s not that Barbie was treating him poorly, but to a girl playing Barbies, Ken doesn’t really matter. He sometimes rides in Barbie’s car and sometimes is invited to parties. If the girl has older sisters or has watched some shows that depict dating, she might have Barbie go on a date with Ken. They go to a movie and dinner, and then she goes home to her pink dreamhouse. If he spends the night, he sleeps on the floor of her bedroom.
Sometimes, there are girls who dream of getting married and having kids, and their Ken and Barbie dolls do just that. But even if girls dream of weddings and babies, they are still hanging out with their best girl friends!
So what does Ken do all day? He beaches. Maybe he goes to work like her dad, but most little girls don’t even understand what their dads do all day.
In fact, Ryan Gosling told GQ that while contemplating whether he would sign on to Barbie, he actually found his daughters’ Ken doll “face down in the mud outside one day, next to a squished lemon, and it was like, This guy’s story does need to be told, you know?” He’s spoken out against the hypocrisy that popped up online after some argued that he was too old to play Ken. “Suddenly, it’s like, ‘No, we’ve cared about Ken this whole time,’” Gosling said about the burgeoning #NotMyKen movement. “If you ever really cared about Ken, you would know that nobody cared about Ken. So your hypocrisy is exposed. This is why his story must be told.” With Barbie, Gosling attempts to do the impossible: prove that while Ken certainly isn’t Barbie, he’s always been just Ken-ough.
And Ryan is correct. No one really cared about Ken. This is Barbie World. Barbie is the one singing about how life is fantastic. However, Ken is just like a purse or shoes left lying on the bedroom floor.
Ken and the Beach Off
The entire scene with the Beach off was weird. Obviously, the term “beach off” is a play on words. But Ken (Ryan Gosling) and Ken (Simu Liu) have challenged one another to a duel. To a young girl watching boys duel or fight, they often think that boys are stupid. Have you ever asked, “Why do boys fight?” As adult women, we come to understand that men are trying to woo us (or something), but nonetheless, they sound just as stupid as these Kens beaching off.
I have read reviews that say there is sexual tension between the two Kens. If you have sons, you will know that this fighting that boys do changes when they go through puberty. Everything begins to change with boys going through puberty. These Kens are trying to show off for Barbie and get her attention.
Do you know Ken’s last name? I didn’t think so. And just as we don’t know Ken’s last name, most little girls don’t care about this fighting or chivalry at these ages. It doesn’t matter to young girls.
Regarding Allan (Michael Cera), the speculation is that he is gay. From a little girl’s perspective, none of the Barbies or Kens have any sex organs. Additionally, Allan is just Ken’s friend. This is similar to Barbie and her friends.
Enter Weird Barbie – What is the Meaning of the Barbie Movie
To a little girl, weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon) is an older Barbie that has been played with too much. Usually, this was the doll of an older sister or cousin. In the movie, when Barbie goes to Weird Barbie to ask questions, that is the same as a girl going to her older sister to find out what is happening to her body. Barbie is having thoughts of death. She has flat feet. There are just weird happenings.
This is similar to a girl having her period, getting zits, and starting to notice boys. Things are happening, and they are just not right.
Why am I having these thoughts? What is going on with my body? We go to the older, wiser woman. She has battle wounds from her life. And she is also the most knowledgeable. She surely can help us figure this out. But instead of giving her the answers, Weird Barbie sends Barbie on a journey to find her own answers, because Weird Barbie understands that there is not one correct answer.
The wiser person asks us, “Do you want to go back to the high heels (fantasy world) or trade them in for Birkenstocks (reality)?
Journey to the Real World
Barbie knows she must venture outside her safe environment and find the girl she believes is responsible for these thoughts. This journey to the real world represents our own awakening. We begin to understand some of the world around us.
Just as Barbie is not understanding the Barbie World anymore and what is happening to her, she finds the real world confusing and odd. What female hasn’t been catcalled or sexually harassed unexpectedly? If you ask someone for directions, does that give them the right to hit on you?
While Barbie is in Los Angeles and looking for answers, she not only meets the CEO of Mattel (Will Ferrell), but she also unknowingly meets her creator (Rhea Perlman).
Does this meeting of the creator represent our search for meaning? Why was I created? What is my purpose? These are the questions we would (and should) ask God.
Relationships After Awakening
After Barbie questions why she is here and her purpose, she has another awakening. She begins to see her relationships for what they really are. However, this also means she sees the boy that was her childhood friend for who he is becoming. Ken represents all men. Those with toxic masculinity, and those who are sensitive and understanding. Ken is going through his own transitions, and he needs to find out who he is without Barbie.
He is more than Beach Ken, and he is more than a ruler of Kendom. Both of those Kens were as a result of his relationship with Barbie.
Barbie knows that her friendship with Ken was a special friendship, but she must leave.
Rarely do relationships with our best guy friends work out. We know too much about them. We have seen their transition from boy to adult, and they have seen us at our worst. If they have been waiting for the day for us to fall in love with them, we apologize and separate from them. It would never work out. “It isn’t you. It’s me.” “I’m sorry if I treated you poorly.” And we move on.
What is the Meaning of the Barbie Movie – The End of the Movie
At the end of the film, Barbie opts to leave Barbie Land. She will enter the human world. Before, she had a “perfect life,” but she is no longer just a plastic doll. She is no longer what everyone else thinks she should be.
In the final scene, Barbie is seen entering an office and announcing she is there to see the gynecologist. First, it means she is now fully human – she has a vagina. Second, she is now grown and ready for adult relationships outside of the fantasy world. The transition from child to adult is complete.
More About the Barbie Movie (2023)
First, the director of Barbie is Greta Gerwig. She was the director and writer of the critically-acclaimed Little Women and Lady Bird.
What is the meaning behind Mermaid Barbie played by Dua Lipa? I think she appears because mermaids are just such fun for young girls. Really, who hasn’t dreamed of being a mermaid? If you can figure out the meaning of mermaid Barbie in the movie, let me know!
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Homeschooling mom – 26 years and counting
Movie reviewer/Travel blogger